Top Consumer Publishers: Settling the scores

Campaign's first report on the UK's top consumer publishers assesses each company based on the events that have driven it through the year, along with financial and other measures.

The aim is to balance a subjective analysis of each publisher - nine consumer and eight customer - with financial and other factual information. However, gaining access to information on advertising revenues, retail sales value and turnover proved as fruitless as ten-pin bowling uphill.

Some publishers were more helpful than others and, in the case of a plc such as Emap, much of the information is publicly available. But there are some gaps in the tables showing financial information. This is for various reasons and partly because, since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, companies that are part of larger public groups (such as Redwood and Forward Publishing) are prevented from divulging financial information.

Other companies, such as Conde Nast, are privately owned and declined to provide worthwhile data. Companies House information on such companies is often so out of date that we decided not to use it.

However, despite these barriers to providing a detailed analysis,it was still possible to get an insight into each publisher through such events as magazine launches and closures, innovations that they have put in place for advertisers and the quality and stability of management teams that run each company.

Influenced by its bigger sister, Campaign's Top 300 Agencies report, Top Consumer Publishers sets out to offer a strong opinion on each publisher based on the events that have driven them through the past year or so.

Each report describes the events of 2003 and early 2004 before attempting to come to some conclusion on the relative strength of each company. In order to do this, we have used three "softer" measures (innovation in sales, innovation in editorial and overall strength of company brand). Aside from these criteria, it is worth noting that circulation data is sourced from the Audit Bureau of Circulations data covering the July to December period in 2003, which provides average net circulation data for 2003.

There are some exceptions to this with customer publishers who have supplied their own circulation data where their magazines do not have ABC certificates (these companies include Haymarket Customer Publishing, Cedar, Redwood and Rare Content).

One of the key criteria, retail sales value, does obviously not apply to customer publishers as the majority of their circulations are free, either at point of sale or delivered to consumers' homes.

Figures on staff numbers and revenues cover only the UK interests of publishers, so the international arms of publishers such as Emap and Dennis are not reflected.

This year's report is intended to be the first of many and it is hoped that publishers will be more forthcoming with some of the figures next time around. They may be keener if consumer magazines have as strong a 2004 as many are predicting.

- Ian Darby, media editor.

BBC MAGAZINES

In 2003, BBC Magazines was a launch machine: churning out new magazines, developing offshoots and then, in a step change for a publisher that has always seen growth through launch, it embarked on an acquisition strategy.

Its initial aim was to build market share in its strongholds of gardening and teen titles and this saw the creation of eight magazines and two one-off trials. The teen sector saw the introduction of Dare, to run alongside the well-established Top of the Pops, and Easy Gardening was introduced to complement BBC Gardeners' World.

Pop Girl and Action Hero added to BBC Magazines' 20 per cent share of the children's market and BBC Parenting was launched with the aim of linking the children's market with its grown-up magazines.

It also launched the food magazine Olive in November, after it lost out on the contract to publish the UK edition of the Australian food title Delicious to Seven Publishing.

Strengthening of its existing magazines was also on the agenda and a marketing investment of £12 million has been earmarked for the relaunch of BBC Good Homes and the newly launched Easy Decorating. Investment has also gone into magazine offshoots with the May 2003 launch of BBC Top Gear Turbo, aimed at younger boys.

Marketing support for its women's magazine Eve paid off when the title posted a 10 per cent increase in sales following its first above-the-line campaign. A relaunched Top Gear also saw improved circulation. But Top of the Pops had a bad 2003, losing 5.6 per cent of its readers.

In what BBC Magazines calls "internal re-engineering", it has made some significant changes on the ad sales front. A merged ad team structure put in place in 2002 culminated this year with the creation of the post of director of advertisement sales.

The former publishing director, Ashley Munday, was appointed in February with a brief to provide more of a focus on its service for agencies and advertisers. Long overdue perhaps but at least it is listening more to the needs of advertisers.

The latter half of 2003 saw a move into customer publishing. In August, it won Tesco Personal Finance's On the Road magazine from Forward.

And it has loftier ambitions than this. The recent collaboration with Haymarket Customer Publishing to develop a customer magazine launch strategy, focusing on opportunities in the women's and retail markets, suggests this is going to be a big area of interest next year.

Acquisition is also to be part of the plan to grow BBC Magazines and its purchase of the Bristol-based Origin Publishing and its 12 titles in February set this strategy in motion.

BBC Magazines, usually stable and reliable but hardly exciting, has exhibited more dynamism in recent months. The teen market must be a worry but its aggressive launch strategy has set it up for growth. And it must not take its eye off key titles such as Radio Times and Top Gear.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 4,176,482

Retail sales value £121m

Company turnover £640m

Staff 600

Number of launches 10

Number of closures 0

Innovation rating: sales Adequate

Innovation rating: editorial Excellent

Strength of overall brand Good

CONDE NAST

The public fortunes of the UK operation of Conde Nast have all been tied up in one handbag-sized title over the past 18 months.

Glamour, the US import that snatched the number-one spot in the women's monthlies market in August 2002, has given a real boost to the company.

It has shown that what had been regarded as the grand old lady of the magazine business has some sass in her yet.

By the end of 2003, Glamour was selling an average of 582,696 copies each month, comfortably ahead of Conde Nast's most ambitious projection of 350,000 for three years after launch.

Circulation figures for the rest of Conde Nast's titles weren't as spectacular, but unlike some of its competitors, there were no decreases. Vanity Fair, GQ, Conde Nast Traveller and Vogue all posted slight increases.

Apart from the seemingly unstoppable rise of Glamour, Conde Nast has been a relatively stable ship over the past year. A couple of retirements among publishers at the beginning of 2004 resulted in some internal shuffling of positions - the GQ publisher, Peter Stuart, was replaced by the Conde Nast Traveller publisher, Jamie Bill (who was in turn replaced by the deputy Vogue publisher, Kate Lowe). When the World of Interiors publisher, Tony Willett, retired, his role was filled by his deputy, Emma Redmayne.

Conde Nast continued to build up its customer publishing division, which started to grow in earnest after the appointment of Sue Douglas in 2001 as the president of new business. It attracted business from Mandarin Oriental, L'Oreal and Harrods.

However, it also lost the contract for the Tate magazine, which went in-house, as did the Ministry of Sound. Conde Nast launched Trash for Ministry last August, but only one issue was published. The Canary Wharf title was also canned, with the client saying the magazine had done its job.

Conde Nast has also been powering ahead with its magazine websites. Cntraveller.com, the site associated with Conde Nast Traveller, has seen a 50 per cent growth in traffic over the past few months, after a redesign that increased the number of destination guides available.

Glamour.com, which was launched with the magazine, has doubled its number of monthly unique users over the past year to 250,000. The site (as with the offline title) has brought in a number of FMCG brands to the Conde Nast stable. Some of these more mass-market brands - such as Olay and Nivea - are also advertising on vogue.com. Moving forward, Conde Nast intends to maintain its steady growth across the whole business, but is also researching ways to replicate the success of Glamour in other sectors.

One possibility is a title that would target women in their thirties - the ground that Hachette's Red has cornered.

Editorially and for advertisers, Conde Nast continues to be a class operation but the coming months will show how serious it is about matching the launch success of Glamour.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 1,450,421

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff 550

Number of launches 3

Number of closures 1

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Adequate

Strength of overall brand Excellent

DENNIS PUBLISHING

Through acquisition and launches, Dennis Publishing has substantially increased its portfolio in the past year from 14 titles to 21. And the company is investing at a time when one of its traditional markets, computer publishing, experiences continuing market erosion.

Felix Dennis, the company's founder, stepped down as the chief executive last summer, handing over to Alastair Ramsay, his managing director. Ramsay split the magazines into two groups, with the ex-Attic Futura managing director, Vivien Cotterill, hired as the head of consumer magazines, and the homegrown talent, James Tye, heading the specialist titles sector.

In 2003, Dennis acquired James Brown's company, I Feel Good, for £5.1 million, which brought the men's magazine Jack, Viz, Fortean Times and Bizarre into the fold. While Jack's circulation, which has increased by 17.1 per cent to 39,052, does not exactly rock the marketplace with its numbers, Viz, Fortean Times and Bizarre have a loyal reader base. Increasing Jack's size slightly alongside a few editorial changes under the new editorship of Michael Hodges following Brown's departure will have helped the magazine to improve its presence in the market and Dennis hopes that it will gradually increase its market share.

Dennis sought to exploit the growing market for gambling with Inside Edge, a monthly magazine edited by the former Daily Mirror City Slicker James Hipwell. It is early days for the title but Dennis says it is exceeding advertising sales expectations and aims to build up a substantial subscriber base.

Maxim has faced a tough market recently with the appearance of men's weeklies. According to Ramsay, the titles have not cannibalised sales yet, but with a market still sampling them, it's too early to tell. To try to manage Maxim's decline (its sales were down 2.7 per cent to 243,241 in 2003), Dennis invested in an ad campaign last July, pitching it as a more cerebral and intelligent alternative to the other lads' mags. But this failed to halt the decline. The editor, Tom Loxley, left in March to be replaced by Greg Gutfield.

Dennis has decided that niche titles are the way to go in a sluggish computer market and launched Custom PC. Its internet publications have also thrived, with a second profitable year for its four sites autoexpress.com, PCPro, Maxim and computerandvideogames.com. It also brought in 28,000 new magazine subscribers from the sites.

Dennis conducted a review of its sales operation to offer group media solutions to clients. It also centralised its promotions team and appointed Anna Hyde, formerly the ad director at I Feel Good, as the sales director of its consumer side.

With its US business now thriving, the UK company has a significant investment pot to dip into. Speculation suggests it's only a matter of time before Dennis launches into the men's weekly market but it also needs to improve the fortunes of its computer titles and Maxim.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 1,270,980

Retail sales value £32m

Company turnover £64m (UK)

Staff 400

Number of launches 7

Number of closures 0

Innovation rating: sales Adequate

Innovation rating: editorial Good

Strength of overall brand Adequate

EMAP CONSUMER MEDIA

Emap spent the first half of 2003 consolidating and focusing on its existing titles but the past few months have seen a frenzy of activity. It also launched into uncharted territory with the men's title Zoo Weekly.

Following the disastrous entry into the US with the purchase and knockdown sale of Petersen Publishing, there was pressure to draw a line under the fiasco. Filling the holes left in the Emap portfolio after it lost control of two of its flagship women's glossies, Elle and Red, to the French publisher Hachette Filipacchi was also a priority.

Financially, Emap has tightened up its game, and the consumer magazine division saw increased profits and ad revenues this year. Total revenues are expected to be up 3 per cent for the year to 31 March 2004.

Titles to fare particularly well in circulation terms were Heat, Empire, Closer and Match. But Emap has been slow to address its weaknesses in the women's monthly market leaving its New Woman title exposed to stronger opposition.

Instead, its attentions have been focused on titles such as More!, which was relaunched in a bid to claw back readers in the dwindling teen sector.

The £3 million makeover seems to have had some effect with a 5 per cent circulation growth.

Emap's tough stance toward failing magazines, necessitated by its need to deliver to shareholders, should be of concern for underperforming titles.

In March, it decided to close the teen title J17 and suspended publication of The Face, pending a review of its future. It will instead invest in its Arena and Bliss titles.

Paul Keenan, the chief executive of Emap Consumer Media, admits it is looking at four or five markets for launches and is weighing up the strongest ideas. Reports have suggested that a fashion monthly is the likeliest option. It also hired five's marketing director, David Pullan, to oversee expansion of the FHM brand.

Emap has denied recent reports that suggested launch activity has been placed on hold as part of a review of its cost base. Its biggest launch this year, Zoo Weekly, looks a likely contender for increased investment.

The title, edited by the former Chat editor Paul Merrill, was launched in January, backed by an £8 million marketing spend. So far it seems to be on target for the 150,000 circulation it set out to achieve but faces stiff competition from IPC's Nuts.

On the advertising side, Emap launched Emap Create. The initiative aims to formalise and extend its offering of non-traditional advertising solutions and will involve all 240 members of the sales team. Three years on from the sales department's overhaul under the magazine sales director, Theresa Coligan, it won print sales team of the year at the Campaign Media Awards. Coligan left in 2003 to be replaced by Carrie Barker.

As well as backing launches and improvements to its titles, investment should also be put into the sales department to ensure that Emap continues to build on its reputation for fresh thinking.

2003

Advertising revenue £138m

Total circulation 6,533,233

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover £329m

Staff 1,500

Number of launches 1

Number of closures 1

Innovation rating: sales Excellent

Innovation rating: editorial Good

Strength of overall brand Good

FUTURE NETWORK

With Future now enjoying a period of recovery after a rocky 2001 and 2002, the specialist magazine publisher is keen to build on its growth by concentrating on launches in niche markets. The company recently reported a 21 per cent increase in underlying profits to £22.7 million and predicts that the rest of the year looks equally as promising.

The low point was having to abandon its new music title Bang after just ten issues because of its disappointing performance and the realisation that the market was not as big as had originally been thought. This has not put the publisher off launching new music titles, but it is likely to look at more specialised markets.

Future, like other publishers in the computer market, has found it tough going, but has addressed this by launching new titles in specific areas.

These titles included Windows XP Answers and Laptop magazine. Its computing magazines account for 32 per cent of its overall turnover.

In the games sector, which accounts for 46 per cent of its turnover, its Official PlayStation2 magazine continues to dominate with a circulation of 188,322 and it has stepped up its presence in this market through acquiring the unofficial PlayStation magazine PSW from Computec Media, as well as the unofficial Xbox magazine Xbox World for £3.2 million. It also revamped PC Answers to try to broaden its appeal.

Other launches included a quarterly online dating magazine, Connect, and a bi-monthly genealogy title, Your Family Tree. Future also overhauled its film title Total Film to create greater opportunities for advertisers and to try to cash in on the growing popularity of cinema. It also introduced a number of new titles in the digital technology arena, with Digital Camera Shopper, Digital Photography Techniques and Digital Home.

Last year, Future decided to improve its profile with advertisers and demonstrate that even in its niche titles more mainstream advertisers would find a willing audience. This has resulted in gaining more lifestyle advertising in its games magazines. It has also overhauled its classified ad sales to improve its sell.

Greg Ingham continues to be the chief executive of The Future Network, and recently stepped down from caretaking the managing director's role with the appointment of Robert Price in March. Price, who has been with Future for six years and was previously the publishing director of the entertainment division in Bath and the overall games division, fills the gap left by Colin Morrison who resigned last December.

Future, despite tough times during the early years of the decade, has lost none of its aggressive edge in launching new titles. The failure of Bang taught it that mainstream markets are more risky to nail, but with £2 million to spend on new titles it is well placed to take advantage of new areas of growth.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 1,601,756

Retail sales value £101m

Company turnover £100.3m

Staff 625

Number of launches 10

Number of closures 5

Innovation rating: sales Adequate

Innovation rating: editorial Adequate

Strength of overall brand Adequate

HACHETTE FILIPACCHI UK

2003 was the first full year of operation for Hachette Filipacchi in the UK. The company was formed when Hachette bought Attic Futura in August 2002 and brought in the ex-Emap chief executive, Kevin Hand, to be the chairman.

One of Hand's first tasks was to dissolve the joint venture with Emap that had given birth to Red and take it and Elle into Hachette's complete control.

Establishing a management team was also a priority. Attic Futura's managing director, Vivien Cotterill, was made redundant in March 2003, after which Hand set about assembling a new senior line-up for the company. Lysanne Currie was promoted to become the head of publishing for Sugar, TV Hits and Elle Girl, Simon Bell was made the marketing director, while Sarah Vickery was promoted to business-development director.

A new sales director was also brought in, in the shape of the former Carat press director, Tim Kirkman. Hand claims that Hachette's ad team "outperforms the market" but says Kirkman's arrival has provided an important boost.

In January this year, Hand hired the new head of trade marketing and circulation, Reid Holland, from Marketforce, and appointed the former IPC women's group head, Rita Lewis, as the publishing director of Red and B.

But 2003 wasn't a good year for the circulation of Hachette titles, indicating that perhaps the corporate upheaval has taken its toll on the editorial floor. Sugar's circulation fell 10.5 per cent over the July to December 2003 period, knocked by competition from CosmoGIRL!. Inside Soap fell by 15.5 per cent over the year, and B lost 14 per cent of its circulation.

However, some of the downturn in Hachette's circulation fortunes can be blamed on a general problem with sales in the teenage market, which is yet to be resolved.

Part of the concentration on getting the right team in place has meant that Hachette had five new editors arrive on its titles during 2003. Recruitment for another two, for Elle and B, is still in process. B will be relaunched this summer to attempt to recoup lost readers.

Although there have been circulation losses, Hachette was also increasing the frequency of titles throughout 2003. Elle Girl, which started life as a quarterly, was monthly by last autumn, while Inside Soap went from fortnightly to weekly at the same time. The company also has All About Soap, which increased its circulation by 10.6 per cent over 2003.

The next wave of growth for the company will involve launches and the exporting of home-grown titles. The French title Psychologie is one that is being studied for its UK potential, although no decision has yet been made.

Hachette Filipacchi's French ownership has made no secret of its aggressive expansion plans for the UK company. Red has been earmarked as a title with foreign launch potential and this is being researched. The extent of Hachette's ambition for the UK market will be felt in the next two years.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 1,358,448

Retail sales value £50m

Company turnover n/a

Staff 261

Number of launches 0

Number of closures 0

Innovation rating: sales Adequate

Innovation rating: editorial Adequate

Strength of overall brand Adequate

H BAUER

The German giant H Bauer shuns the limelight. It's known for knocking out weekly women's and TV magazines by the millions but little else about it is played out in public.

Some of this desire for privacy stems from its parent culture but it has been actively encouraged by its retiring managing director, Alan Urry, who leaves in July to be replaced by David Goodchild, Bauer's current group publishing director.

Goodchild's regime might be a little more open but the signs are that we should expect more of the same - a stable culture that creates mass-market titles that sell well at a low price.

2003 was characterised by growth in circulation among nine of its ten titles, the exception being TV Quick, which lost 10 per cent of its readers after pressure from IPC's What's On TV and Bauer's own TV Choice.

However, Bauer still sees the TV market as a growth area and late in 2003 launched Total TV Guide as a challenger to cable and satellite titles.

The early signs didn't seem good but Bauer's message to the market is that it will stick with the title.

Bauer's other launch, 360, fared even less well. Oddly, for a publisher that specialises in targeting mass audiences each week, 360 was a chunky bi-monthly lifestyle title aimed at women, with a mix of travel, entertainment and lifestyle features. It should have been an advertiser's dream but was closed after just two issues, a sign perhaps that Bauer is more comfortable with the high numbers delivered by the likes of Take a Break.

But in its core markets Bauer had a very successful 2003. Bella overtook its great rival Best in the women's market, posting its first circulation increase for 13 periods. Real, its women's fortnightly, had a year of recovery, recording a massive 27.6 per cent circulation rise to 205,702. And TV Choice also recorded an impressive rise of 12 per cent to make it the UK's 14th largest-selling title with a circulation of 1,017,468.

Stability was the keynote among Bauer's senior editorial teams - it didn't lose a single editor. Its unique - among large publishers - practice of outsourcing its sales operation to a consultancy (The Publishing Consultancy) allows it to focus solely on editorial product. This relationship is long established and is set to continue.

Arguably, however, this dislocation of editorial and sales means that its delivery to advertisers is more traditional than that of its rivals.

But few would dispute that it is capable of delivering mass audiences of women.

And it does this very successfully. Bauer grew its ad revenues by 26 per cent in the first quarter of 2004 and it hopes for further growth on the back of its existing titles.

Sales innovation is not high up its agenda, but Bauer has tried to innovate with new editorial products such as 360 and Total TV Guide. The test for 2004 will be to see how brave it is in launching after struggling with its two launches in 2003.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 4,278,535

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff n/a

Number of launches 2

Number of closures 1

Innovation rating: sales Adequate

Innovation rating: editorial Adequate

Strength of overall brand Adequate

IPC MEDIA

Time Inc, which bought IPC Media in 2002, finally got around to demonstrating its commitment to UK magazines. The £8 million launch of the men's weekly title Nuts in January was a clear indication of its faith and the IPC chief executive, Sylvia Auton, believes launches will pave the way for the company's future success.

Auton, an IPC lifer and formerly the managing director of IPC's Country and Leisure Group, replaced the departing Sly Bailey as the chief executive in March 2003. Bailey's deputy, Linda Genower, the managing director of the weeklies group IPC Connect, retired and was replaced by Caroline Ward (who has also since left). Other senior board changes included the appointment of Philippa Brown as the managing director of IPC tx. Georgina Crace remained IPC's ad chief, but also became the managing director of its Wallpaper Group after Mike Soutar stepped aside to focus on IPC's launch development programme.

Nuts was IPC's biggest launch in the past 16 months and launched against Emap's Zoo Weekly. The title's circulation is around 200,000 and ahead of its rival but it is too soon to say if IPC's heavy investment in the title has paid off.

IPC also launched a bi-annual magazine out of the Wallpaper Group, called Navigator, and cashed in on the growing popularity of digital photography with Better Digital Photography. Otherwise, it has been busy revamping titles. This included a redesign of Wallpaper in May 2003 and a new-look NME last September, leading to both magazines recovering sales stability. TV & Satellite Week was also relaunched in January to stem falling sales.

On the downside, Marie Claire continues to suffer, with a fall in circulation of close to 10 per cent in 2003. Although it claims that scaling back on its cover-mounting has dented sales, the title needs to be more focused on its core market. IPC also closed its young women's monthly 19 and the dance music title Musik.

In the men's market, Loaded's new editor, Martin Daubney, however, seems to have stopped sales sliding in a tough market and IPC continues to dominate the women's weeklies sector, with Chat showing unprecedented growth.

IPC recovered with an 11 per cent growth in circulation in the latest set of ABCs, but at 9,808,789 this is still down on last year. IPC Southbank has been restructured to pave the way for further launches and the first fruit of this is set to be the glossy monthly Celebrity Living. TeenNow, a celebrity title for young girls, will also launch.

On the advertising front, IPC continues to innovate and grow its revenues, gaining a 12 per cent increase in new business despite a flat market.

In March, IPC Ignite! teamed up with Capital Radio and Viacom Brand Solutions to create RSVP, a new one-stop service for media agencies and advertisers who want to target the youth and entertainment sectors.

IPC needs to improve its growth to maintain its leadership, through launches and revitalising existing problem titles, such as Marie Claire.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 9,808,789

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff 2,035

Number of launches 3

Number of closures 2

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Good

Strength of overall brand Good

THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE COMPANY

Despite a bad start to 2003 for The National Magazine Company, having had to re-issue ABC statements for nine of its titles after infringing rules on bulk copies, the company has achieved a solid 2003 and early 2004.

This has been attained by concentrating on its core magazines and closing down ventures that failed to deliver. There has been no standalone launch, although last August the company launched a 100-page glossy bi-annual supplement called Shop! with Company magazine. NatMags' managing director, Duncan Edwards, refuses to comment, but it is likely that Shop! will launch as a standalone title. There is also speculation that the company will launch an upmarket homes title.

In March 2004, NatMags closed its customer publishing division, which had clients such as Moss Bros, BAA, Waitrose and Samsung, because it was not profitable enough. The Cosmo Cafe Chain project, which had launched in Manchester, was ditched. NatMags also sold Your Home magazine to Essential Publishing. The homes title had been acquired from Gruner & Jahr three years before and was not making any money.

Circulation for most titles has remained fairly strong with an overall increase of 2.8 per cent year on year. CosmoGIRL! is the fastest-growing title in the teen market and in 2003 grew 39.6 per cent to 198,324. The magazine shrank to an A5 format and was backed by an aggressive marketing campaign. House Beautiful's redesign in the autumn saw its circulation jump by 7 per cent to 182,025.

Esquire, which has had a bumpy ride over the past few years, seems to have found its mark under its editor, Simon Tiffin, and reported circulation increases. NatMags' stalwart Good Housekeeping remains healthy under the editorship of Lindsay Nicholson, and Country Living continued to be a star title with its seventh successive circulation increase.

One of NatMags' weak spots has been Cosmopolitan, which continues to be beaten by Conde Nast's Glamour. Cosmo, however, recently raised the stakes by increasing the print run of its handbag-sized format to 85,000 and plans to extend its reach from London into other urban areas if it works. Its more upmarket title Harpers & Queen, which saw a 2.5 per cent circulation increase to 90,227, is trying to make itself a little more contemporary in tone.

In management terms, Terry Mansfield, NatMags' director, finally cut his ties with the UK company last October after 34 years, leaving Edwards free to stamp his own style on the company. Mansfield's influence was massive but he has left a succession plan firmly in place.

There was no step change in NatMags' advertising approach, since, according to Edwards, the traditional approach of selling each magazine individually continues to work well.

This year NatMags needs to continue building its banker titles, while a launch such as Shop! would help it to find growth opportunities.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 3,115,565

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff 657

Number of launches 0

Number of closures (newsstand) 0 (1 sale)

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Adequate

Strength of overall brand Excellent

CEDAR COMMUNICATIONS

In 2003, Cedar Communications celebrated its 30th birthday and proved it has come a long way since it was launched in 1973 for the sole purpose of publishing an in-flight magazine for British Airways.

The company now handles 11 magazines, recently adding the relaunch of Tesco's customer products into one magazine, which it snatched from rival Forward.

Tesco Magazine, which replaced Tesco Clubcard, Tesco Recipe, Tesco Vegetarian and Tesco Healthy Living, launched with a bi-monthly circulation of two million.

With the former Eve deputy editor, Carol Bronze, as the editor, the Tesco title will go a long way to boosting Cedar's profile and put it on the map as more than just the producer of British Airways' High Life and Business Life magazines.

This will help to raise awareness of the company among advertisers, which cannot harm its new business potential and will see it squaring up to its larger Omnicom sibling, Redwood.

Cedar, under the management of the managing director, Jules Rastelli, his deputy, Claire Broadbent, and the creative direction of Stewart Purcell and the editorial director, Mark Jones, also won a project from Eurostar to handle media sales to third parties.

The three-year contract includes developing customer literature and commercial activity on trains and the publisher has set up a division called Eurostar Media to handle it.

Although the train company does not yet have an on-board magazine, Cedar would be well-placed if it changed its mind, especially with its experience in the travel publishing market.

That said, Cedar's reputation as a travel specialist was slightly dented with the loss of the My Travel business, although this was perhaps more a reflection of a tough 2003 for the tourism industry than Cedar's own abilities.

Cedar retained its contract for the rival travel company TUI and for Heathrow Express. In other sectors, it works for Nikon, BMW and the Chartered Insurance Institute.

The agency has been building over the past three years, with Rastelli, who joined in October 2001, widely credited with having turned it around.

Cedar still has its "banker" products in the British Airways titles, with High Life contributing a 194,246 circulation and Business Life reaching close to 100,000 business-class fliers each month.

The sheer scale of the Tesco win should also help to push Cedar into the top echelons.

Rastelli believes the gap between the top two customer publishers, Redwood and John Brown Citrus Publishing, and the rest of the contract publishing market will gradually narrow.

To catch up with the big boys, Cedar has a long way to go, but it appears to be gaining ground on the top two.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 3,026,189

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff 82

Number of wins 1

Number of losses 1

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Good

Strength of overall brand Good

FORWARD

Forward, at 17, is one of the oldest customer publishing agencies in the business. Its acquisition by WPP in 2001 has, its chief executive, Sarah Wyse, says, given Forward access to new business, a worldwide network of sister agencies and an even greater focus on dovetailing clients' publishing needs with their direct marketing goals.

The company is unusual in its emphasis on customer-data analysis, something that was learned from its long-term client Tesco. Wyse says Forward works best with clients "with good, strong databases". The agency tries to work closely with any direct marketing that clients have commissioned, rather than as an add-on extra.

The AA is a good example of this. The agency won the AA's business in June 2003 on the basis of its idea to split the 4.9 million circulation of the company's magazine into two groups according to their value to the AA. "Best" customers would receive a magazine four times a year, while other customers would get a publication with slightly different copy twice a year.

AA was Forward's biggest win of 2003, but Ford was another major win.

Ford had previously worked with seven European customer publishers, but appointed Forward to consolidate this activity. The account was won without a pitch and illustrates the value of being a WPP agency. The introduction came from WPP's direct marketing agency, Wunderman, which has had a long relationship with Ford.

Forward now publishes 13 magazines in 14 countries for Ford. The magazines are commissioned by a pan-European panel of editors to ensure content is not too UK-centric. The core of the magazine is the same, with some pages customised for local markets and the agency is now planning the launch of Russian and Turkish editions of the title.

Other recent wins include a business-to-business project for Vodafone, and an account for the Finnish paper manufacturer M-Real.

Forward did lose around 20 per cent of its Tesco business last year, when the retailer decided to stop publishing its Clubcard and Recipe titles. But it still produces three titles for the retailer.

The agency's arrival into the WPP stable has prompted some senior management changes at Forward. A new managing director was appointed - the ex-Emap staffer Stephanie White - and Wyse moved up to become the chief executive. Louise Johnstone was brought in as the marketing director, replacing Sarah Morris.

Wyse now concentrates on Forward's international expansion plans. So far, nothing definite has been set up, although Wyse is ambitious about the potential for Forward in markets that have seen minimal customer publishing so far.

WPP links and increased need for data-driven activity from clients puts Forward in a strong position. However, competition is hotting up from rival ad networks.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 4,008,716

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff 120

Number of wins 4

Number of losses 1

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Excellent

Strength of overall brand Good

HAYMARKET CUSTOMER PUBLISHING

Haymarket is a relative newcomer to the customer publishing sector but, having launched in 1998, the company is now making its presence felt in the market.

While it can boast stability in management, Patrick Fuller - who launched the division - remains its managing director, the events of 2003 suggest that Haymarket, along with other smaller players such as Rare Content, can innovate at a pace that might threaten the supremacy of larger players.

Haymarket is proud of its claim that it is the largest remaining customer publisher to have launched out of a traditional consumer and business publishing background, rather than as a start-up or coming from an ad agency or direct marketing culture. This, it argues, allows it to be very editorially focused and to offer a high quality of product.

This was evidenced two years ago when its Army title was named the magazine of the year at the APA Awards. However, success is always a double-edged sword and, in 2003, it was forced to defend this prized Ministry of Defence account in a statutory pitch. The quality of its work on the title enabled it to retain the business and its portfolio of activity for the Army also won it another APA Award, for best integrated campaign.

Haymarket Customer Publishing had a busy 2003 on new projects. It launched ten titles, including its two major wins, the Uefa Champions League magazine, in three languages across Europe, and an Olympus magazine out of its office in Hamburg in eight languages.

Other new clients included Nike and Panasonic and the company won extra jobs from Manchester United, for which it produces its match-day magazine.

On the downside, however, it lost the Teacher Training Agency's Ruler magazine to Rare Content. A sign that it can't become complacent because competition is strong throughout the sector.

Haymarket has also tried to grow through linking with partner companies, the most significant association being with BBC Worldwide. This initiative will involve joint pitching for clients.

It is also linking with an as-yet-unnamed ad agency and a digital agency to supply design and content for clients.

The company believes that the general climate is improving and that it will be well-placed to grow further. "What's changed between now and last year is that serious people are talking about serious new projects, not just holding pitches to save money," Fuller says.

Haymarket Customer Publishing can certainly lay claim to a successful 2003, albeit on a smaller scale than the likes of Redwood, and it will be interesting to see how it will grow its joint venture and digital media activity. Another major test will be whether it can win a mass circulation title from an established player. That would really put it on the map.

2003

Advertising revenue £1.7m

Total circulation 5,995,000

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover £22.8m

Staff 88

Number of wins 10

Number of losses 1

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Good

Strength of overall brand Good

JOHN BROWN CITRUS PUBLISHING

John Brown Citrus Publishing went into 2003 having just completed a merger that produced a company with a sales turnover of more than £40 million, making it a strong independent rival to the Omnicom-owned Redwood.

It was a good start to the year and paved the way for a strong new-business performance.

JBCP picked up the upmarket car dealer HR Owen for a 200,000-circulation customer magazine; JD Sports' launch Tred; Royal Bank of Scotland appointed it for its private banking magazine launch, pb, and it won a Coronation Street project for Granada.

It also snatched Selfridges magazine from Wink Media and a tourism guide for VisitBritain. Retaining London Underground's Tube magazine, after a five-way pitch, was also an achievement.

But the loss of the AA's magazine relaunch, which went to Forward, will have been sorely felt, as will the loss of the More Than business. To cushion the blow, JBCP was retained by the AA for its Top 200 Hotels guide.

While these losses appear to have exposed a weak spot at the company, the creative department appeared to be its strength with the launch of the striking title Carlos for Virgin Atlantic's Upper-Class travellers.

Carlos was named the launch of the year at the British Society of Magazine Editors Awards in November, beating newsstand consumer titles - the first time a customer magazine has won.

Carlos' success saw JBCP extend its relationship with Virgin with the contract to produce its in-flight entertainment guide Info, previously held by River Publishing.

The publisher also launched a division to publish Carlos and Selfridges in a joint venture with the creative communications consultancy 51, early this year.

Carlos is not the only jewel in its crown. JBCP also produces Waitrose Food Illustrated, but it will be interesting to see how the launch of the newsstand food titles Olive and Delicious will hit the actively purchased sales of the title.

Its Dorchester Magazine, for the hotel group, is an example of JBCP's creativity given free rein. The freedom to be so style conscious is down to the company's independent status, according to the chief executive, Andrew Hirsch, who took the helm of the company at the end of 2001.

As well as being known for its creative flair, JBCP also publishes the mass-market, high-circulation titles well. Its biggest magazine in terms of circulation is Sky the Magazine. This was a particularly satisfying win in 2002 as it was previously produced by Redwood and 2003 saw a significant revamp of the title.

JBCP also launched a children's division, called John Brown Junior, which publishes Sky Kids, Angelina Ballerina and a magazine for Nickelodeon.

The company has a strong creative output and performs well in the new-business stakes. However, it will need to work on its client retention if it is to reach its full potential.

2003

Advertising revenue £20m

Total circulation 9,668,733

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover £52m

Staff 225

Number of wins 9

Number of losses 2

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Excellent

Strength of overall brand Excellent

PUBLICIS BLUEPRINT

Publicis Blueprint suffered perception problems when it launched in 1999, the chief executive, John Wisbey, says, because of its ad agency parentage. "People thought we'd concentrate on creativity but not be as good at making it commercially effective."

So Wisbey and colleagues were particularly pleased last year to pick up three APA Awards, which focus on magazines' return on investment. The agency's Ideas title for Homebase won launch of the year as well as overall magazine of the year, while the Asda magazine won retailer magazine of the year.

Asda, as one of the founder clients of the agency, continues to be one of its core clients.

The agency now produces recipe books for sale in Asda stores, and is planning in-house TV and radio services for the retailer.

Inspired by their work in maximising Asda's owned media, Blueprint directors are positioning the agency as an expert in this field, taking advantage of the focus on in-store TV.

Its position as part of a large agency group means it gets some projects that would be described as direct marketing in another organisation - producing press inserts for HP, for example. It also has its own Language Agency, which works on multi-lingual projects.

As well as global work, this unit produced literature for Transport for London last year, including information on the Congestion Charge in eight languages.

The agency is growing steadily - it won new accounts last year from Toni & Guy, Microsoft and The Big Issue - although it did lose Thames Water and a small piece of business from the Business Golf Corporation.

Wisbey says the agency is getting on more pitchlists, thanks to the APA wins. This growth led to the appointment of a second editorial chief, the ex-Redwood editor-in-chief, Penny MacDonald.

Growth has also meant Blueprint has been able to give staff the time to work on a pro bono project. The Real Picture is a magazine produced by young homeless people - the agency contributes office space, equipment and volunteer mentors.

As the agency moves into its fifth year, Wisbey and the managing director, Jason Frost, have two big initiatives up their sleeves.

In April 2004, it signed a deal with the children's publisher Egmont Publishing. A joint venture between the two companies will offer clients the chance to produce magazines aimed at children and parents. Clients of Publicis Blueprint's parent ad agency will be targeted.

The second major deal is to launch in the US. The market can be tough for foreign publishers, so Wisbey is in the process of establishing links with two American publishers. Once an initial client is signed, Publicis Blueprint will open an office there.

Much of Publicis Blueprint's growth in future will be determined by the success or not of these new initiatives. The next year will be vital.

2003

Advertising revenue £10m

Total circulation 2,662,067

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff 65

Number of wins 3

Number of losses 2

Innovation rating: sales Excellent

Innovation rating: editorial Good

Strength of overall brand Adequate

RARE CONTENT

Rebranding is a hard trick to pull off but the directors at the publisher formerly known as AMD Brass Tacks appear to have managed it with considerable aplomb. Brass Tacks was known as a solid, but unexciting, publisher producing a large-circulation title for Somerfield. Then the former Premier Magazines managing director, Craig Waller, arrived as the managing director and hatched plans for its reinvention.

In November 2003, Brass Tacks rebranded as Rare Content, a company made up of three divisions (Rare Publishing, Rare Digital and Rare Corporate).

The idea behind the rebrand was to create a company more suited to creating ideas across different media (including print, websites, e-mail and CD-Rom).

All very nice in theory, but Rare managed to use this positioning to win a large brief from Air Miles to launch Beyond Travel, a CD-Rom and print-based title with a circulation of two million.

It claims this is the largest circulation CD-Rom magazine on the market, beating even The Sunday Times' The Month. Waller says: "We think our work for Air Miles is truly ground-breaking and is already demonstrating significant brand and business benefits to the client. By the end of 2004, we will have shown that there is a place for an innovative, independent alternative voice in the market."

Rare also won the Teacher Training Agency's Ruler title, a magazine for trainee teachers that appears three times a year. The magazine was previously published by Haymarket.

Better for You, a title for Coventry Building Society, and Littlewoods' Select Living magazine, which is aimed at top customers, were other significant wins.

On the downside, it lost its acclaimed Royal Mail titles, Response and Sort It, as part of a Royal Mail consolidation of its marketing communications into Omnicom agencies. An undoubted blow, given the size and prestige of the account.

But in general, Rare's rebranding and launch of new magazines was backed up by the stability of its key titles. It continues to publish the UK's 12th-largest title, Somerfield Magazine, and also a monthly title for the government body Trade Partners UK, called Overseas Trade.

Rare also raised its game in design terms, hiring the former Cedar Communications designer Marc Blackwell as its creative director. Blackwell is a previous winner of the APA's designer of the year award, when he worked on British Airways' High Life title at Cedar. His appointment should improve the look of its titles.

Together with the rest of the senior team, Waller and the editor-in-chief, Matthew Cowen, Blackwell is charged with making Rare's ambitions reality.

It has set itself difficult goals, to innovate and grow against bigger players in the market, and the second half of 2004 and early 2005 will be a real test of whether this is realistic. It has made a start in trying to bring something new to the market; more account wins and awards would be a sign that it has made the right decision.

2003

Advertising revenue £4m

Total circulation 3,055,500

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover £5.7m

Staff 52

Number of wins 5

Number of losses 1

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Excellent

Strength of overall brand Adequate

REDWOOD

Redwood, the Omnicom-owned customer publishing agency, maintained its position at the top of its sector in 2003 with a strong year.

Its new-business performance included the £1 million contract from Royal Mail to produce three titles as part of a joint bid for the postal operator's business with its sister agencies Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Proximity London.

Other new clients include VW, Bentley, the Labour Party, Dulux and the Government's Sure Start Unit.

These wins helped soothe the wound left by the loss of Sky the Magazine to its arch-rival John Brown Citrus Publishing the previous year.

This was a tough lesson for the company, but it proved a valuable one as Redwood retained all its accounts in 2003.

The loss of the co-founder and chief executive, Michael Potter, to the start-up Seven Publishing was the greatest upset. However, the damage was limited, with his swift replacement by the managing director, Keith Grainger. Omnicom gave the company added stability and prominence within the group by making Michael Baulk, the chairman of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, its chairman.

Baulk says: "Redwood epitomises the AMV philosophy of 'the work, the work, the work'. Its creative work is outstanding and I'm always proud to present it to clients or other group agencies."

Redwood is strong in the all-important retail sector with magazines for Boots, Marks & Spencer, Safeway and Harvey Nichols.

These four titles carry 32 of the 100 biggest advertisers in the UK and, according to National Readership Survey data, Marks & Spencer, Boots and Safeway provide coverage of 28.5 per cent of UK women aged 15-plus, which equates to 6.9 million women. However, Boots' and Safeway's magazines suffered falls in circulation in 2003 (of 5 and 13 per cent respectively).

Of its more stylish titles, Land Rover's Onelife was relaunched to coincide with the debut of its Range Stormer model. Redwood also overhauled Fabric, its monthly lifestyle title, which is distributed to 80,000 homes in and around London.

Redwood has been championing the sector's cause in general by commissioning research to prove the success of customer magazines. The study, by The Henley Centre, involved quantitative research that showed that customer magazines worked as a marketing medium, and a qualitative study, which showed what happens to a customer title once it reaches consumers' homes.

The company will want to strengthen its position as the leading customer publishing agency as competition hots up, not only from its closest rival JBCP, but others such as its Omnicom sibling Cedar.

Redwood will be looking to be involved in more pitches with its sister Omnicom agencies, as well as launching titles for new clients and maintaining its blemish-free client-services record of last year.

2003

Advertising revenue n/a

Total circulation 8,572,100

Retail sales value n/a

Company turnover n/a

Staff n/a

Number of wins 6

Number of losses 0

Innovation rating: sales Good

Innovation rating: editorial Adequate

Strength of overall brand Excellent

RIVER PUBLISHING

This year marks River Publishing's tenth birthday. It now claims to be the largest wholly independent customer publishing agency, a status that gives it greater flexibility over fees and more speed at pitches, according to the managing director, Nicola Murphy.

"We're not beholden to anybody and we intend to keep it that way," Murphy says.

Last year was a period of consolidation for River, after bringing in a new chairman, financial director and publishing director in 2002. Together with Murphy and her co-founder, the editorial director, Jane Wynn, they comprise the main board.

This year, the agency created an operations board, which handles the day-to-day management of the company. The members of this board - two senior account directors, the advertising, production and creative directors - were also given a profit share. "We wanted to give some of our most senior people more autonomy in the business," Murphy explains.

This operations board has had a lot of new business to manage this year.

River pulled in ten new clients during 2003, including three that appointed the agency without a competitive pitch.

The Sunday Times Travel magazine was a high-profile account win and launch for the agency. It registered a circulation of 61,129 for the first six months of 2003, with the client News International claiming its newsstand sales took it above Conde Nast Traveller (which has a much higher total circulation of 82,411 but fewer newsstand sales).

River also picked up business from another NI title, The Sun. It produces occasional monthly magazines on a range of subjects - football was the most recent one - which are distributed with the newspaper.

Other new accounts won during last year include the discount retailer Bonmarche, Virgin Trains, WH Smith, VisitBritain and VisitLondon. The one account loss was Virgin Atlantic. The agency had been producing its in-flight entertainment guide, Info, but this was moved into John Brown Citrus Publishing - the agency that handled all the other Virgin customer titles.

Advertising revenue stands at a healthy £6.5 million. Murphy claims that, contrary to many in the customer publishing industry, River has always been good at attracting advertising revenue for clients' titles.

Stability on existing business is something that River is trying to work towards. It has some clients that it has kept for several years - it won Superdrug in 1999 (its Spirit magazine is now one of the leading health-and-beauty titles in the consumer market) and Holland & Barrett eight years ago, and is trying to balance those long-term relationships with a focus on new business. However, an even greater emphasis on client retention plus more of a sense that River is challenging its rivals for the rights to publish big titles will be key to its future success. It will be interesting to see how its new management structure will rise to this challenge.

2003

Advertising revenue £6.5m

Total circulation 545,461

Retail sales value £2.9m

Company turnover £14m

Staff 62

Number of wins 10

Number of losses 1

Innovation rating: sales Adequate

Innovation rating: editorial Adequate

Strength of overall brand Good

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).